Chapter 2: Welcome to My Nightmare

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Chapter 2: Welcome to My Nightmare

I was standing in front of my mirror studying myself, just as I’d done earlier, but everything was more exaggerated, more surreal – from the glow of the dress’ red sequins, which seemed to be generating an unearthly luminescence within themselves, to the shadowy corners of my room, impossibly dark and hungry – a hiding place for ten thousand tiny, toothy, silently chomping mouths.

I twirled once, then again and again, giving myself over to the momentum; the bottom of the slightly flared skirt granted me a sparkling red mermaid’s tail. As it did, the room spun with me in a dizzying waltz, shaking loose its solidity. The walls and furniture began to fray at their edges and wisp away in great plumes of black smoke, as if on fire.

But nothing was burning. My bedroom was neither hot nor cold; it was devoid of temperature all together.

I was dreaming. Had to be. Because I wasn’t the least bit alarmed by any of it.

Other objects began to take shape and form around me, and suddenly I wasn’t moving anymore. I hadn’t stopped dancing; in fact, it was as if I never had been. What I was doing was staring down at my own body, sprawled out before me, bruised, scarred, motionless, maybe dead.

What the hell?

Once my shock dissipated, I knew exactly where I was: the loading dock at the Nosferatu compound. I knew this scene too. I seemed to be inside a memory, even though I’d never seen it like this. This had to be just moments after I’d unknowingly bonded Keel and I together in a much more permanent way than merely allowing him to drink my blood had. The blood bond faded if Keel didn't drink from me, or if I stopped offering my blood willingly, but when a sorcerer returns a soul – human or otherwise – from the brink of what should be inescapable death, their lives and minds and futures become inextricably linked.

If this was a memory of that morning, however, it was a seriously weird dream-time version of it, which apparently only starred one of us. Me.

Or, that’s what I thought until I started moving. Suddenly I wasn’t simply looking down on this tableau like a fixed camera anymore. I was a participant in it.

As I crouched down beside my body, I couldn’t take my eyes off my scars. Had I really looked like that once? So young and battered and utterly defeated? I saw no telltale rise and fall of my chest. Was I still breathing? I must have been. Unless this dream was about to roll out some alternate, much more macabre take on our escape.

Just then a pair of arms – my arms, apparently – came into view and gently scooped me up off of the concrete, as if I was as fragile as centuries-old fine china and a hundred million times more valuable. Only they weren’t my arms: they were Keel’s. I’d recognize those pale fingers, slightly sharper-than-human nails, and black hoodie sleeves anywhere. Which meant…

I was Keel?

I didn’t think anything could deep-six the shock of seeing my own lifeless body, but this blew it to smithereens.

Sure, I dreamed about Keel – all the time, in fact. Sometimes about things that had happened and sometimes about things that never would, but I’d never dreamed I was him.

But I wasn’t really him. The dream may have put me behind Keel’s eyes, but it hadn’t granted me access to his thoughts. Beyond the initial WTF-factor, it was shallow and vapid, offering me only the visuals, like some god-awful depressing silent movie.

Yet I found myself enrapt all the same. This was still Keel and I, in a way I’d never seen us before.

Dream Keel loaded me reverently into the passenger side of the van, clasping the seatbelt snuggly around me. In my head, I was screaming, “Hurry up, hurry up! We need to get out of here! They're going to come back!” But Dream Keel – and thus me too – had no eyes for the charred corpses strewn in loosening circle behind us, nor any Nosferatu security personnel that might still be hovering in the vicinity. I tried to tell myself that we were going to be okay, because we were okay, we had survived this, but I wasn’t convinced. Everyone knew dream logic had little regard for real-world history.

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